Serpentor is a fictional character from G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, a line of military-themed toys created by Hasbro. He was introduced in 1986 as a toy with an air chariot and introduced in the animated series that same year in the five part mini-series _A_Real_American_Hero_(1985_TV_series)#G.I._Joe:_Arise.2C_Serpentor.2C_Arise.21 He took over the leadership of Cobra in Season 2. He was created through a breakthrough in cloning research by Dr. Mindbender from the DNA extracted from the unearthed remains of the most ruthless and effective military leaders in history, including Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, Attila the Hun, Philip II of Macedon and his son Alexander the Great, Ivan the Terrible, Vlad the Impaler, Hannibal, Genghis Khan, and Grigori Rasputin. Serpentor is often known for his catch phrase "This, I Command!", which Serpentor says after giving Cobra members orders.

Comics - Original Continuity

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero - Marvel Comics

The character Serpentor in the comics was different from the version in the animated series. While the animated Serpentor was built to be a new, superior leader of Cobra, his comic counterpart was never intended to replace Cobra Commander as he was intended more to be a general to lead and inspire the troops, while Cobra Commander remained in power.

The comic version of Serpentor was created in a manner similar to that of the cartoon, involving Cobra collecting genetic material from various historical figures. However, the comic diverges on a few details, such as the animated Serpentor was slightly unstable due to lacking Sun Tzu's DNA, whearas this oversight did not occur in the comics and Serpentor was created as he was intended. Additionally, while the cartoon explained to some extent which quality each DNA sample was meant to give to Serpentor, the comic did not and the act of collecting the DNA was given much less focus.

Serpentor's first action after being created in Springfield, the true home base of Cobra, was to lead a counterattack against the G.I. Joe assault team that had been sent to the town. Serpentor personally risks his life to rescue one wounded Cobra soldier. His efforts lead many more to safety, resulting in great loyalty among the troops.

While much of the Cobra hierarchy was in some way loyal to Serpentor in the animated series, his relationship with them in the comics was more strained. While he had the loyalty of Dr. Mindbender and several others, he was on shakier terms with the others, particularly the Baroness and Zartan.

Serpentor was also portrayed as having something akin to multiple personalities or schizophrenia, as a result of being created from the DNA of multiple tyrants. During the Cobra civil war, for instance, he is shown wincing in pain, as his mind is filled with voices arguing over how to handle the conflict. When asked what was wrong, he explained that the various personalities within him were arguing.

In another incident, he was able to clearly access memories of one of his genetic forebears. He recalls the invention of the pizza and tells it to a listening group of attentive Dreadnoks.

While Serpentor was meant to be more of a general and figurehead, he was also ambitious, leading to power struggles between Serpentor and other members of the Cobra hierarchy. While there was initial tension between him and Cobra Commander, the latter was absent for much of Serpentor's tenure in COBRA. Instead, Serpentor had to contend with the impostor Fred VII. Fred takes an immediate dislike to Serpentor and the two were often at odds. Their rivalry eventually escalated in to the COBRA civil war, in which G.I. Joe sided with Serpentor to defeat the forces of Fred and the Baroness. It should be noted, however, that for much of this story arc, the Cobra Hierarchy was unaware that Fred VII was not the real Cobra Commander. The U.S. Government decided to support Serpentor, looking at it from the angle that they were supporting a monarch over a dictator. During this conflict, Serpentor met his end at the hands of Zartan, killed by an arrow to the eye.

After this, his body was preserved in cold storage by Dr. Mindbender, for "purely scientific reasons." The body was later put inside the landlocked freighter and buried inside a volcano on COBRA Island, along with a number of "traitors", by the real Cobra Commander. Most of the traitors actually die but Serpentor would return, several years later.

Reinstatement - Devil's Due Publishing

Being a clone, Serpentor's story does not end with death. He was later reanimated by renegade scientists and soon formed a secretive faction called The Coil. The Coil is composed of these renegade scientists and COBRA operatives who are dissatisfied with Cobra Commander. The most elite members of the Coil include the legendary saboteur Firefly, Zartan's brother Zandar, Overlord, and later the infamous SAW Viper Robert Skelton (who would become Overkill). Now with a sizable army in hand, Serpentor targeted both G.I. Joe and COBRA alike from COBRA Island. He lured Mindbender back to his side and launched a surprise attack, capturing Cobra Commander and several Joes. This resulted in a massive three way battle between G.I. Joe, COBRA, and the Coil. During the battle, several Joes were killed, Serpentor's forces were defeated, and COBRA reacquired the island. During a fight with Cobra Commander, Serpentor fell off a cliff, into the ocean below. His body was recovered by Overlord at the behest of the Jugglers. Serpentor was then placed in suspended animation and the Jugglers instituted a number of brainwashing programs in order to have Serpentor eventually become their instrument. Their plans never came to fruition however, because following COBRA's defeat in Badhikistan, the Jugglers were assassinated by one of their own in General Mars Harring, whose true loyalties were with the mysterious Red Shadows organization. Claiming that the Red Shadows hated loose ends, Harring took a fire axe and broke open Serpentor's suspended animation chamber. Whether Harring killed Serpentor or turned the body over to the Red Shadows for some other purpose has yet to be revealed. However, this would not prevent Serpentor's legacy from returning to haunt the Joes.

It was revealed in issue 20 of "America's Elite" that Mindbender had created another copy of Serpentor as a backup, but aged it so that it would not be discovered. The copy was eventually infiltrated into G.I Joe's high command who believed it was General Philip Rey, with sessions with a "therapist" to convince it of its past. When Rey embarked on a quest with Duke to discover his past, the truth was revealed, with Mindbender's operative urging him to kill the Joe leader. However, Rey's sense of identity proved too strong, and the Coil operative was taken into custody. Duke promised to take him out if he saw any sign of Serpentor, but agreed to work with him.

Comics - Alternate Realities/Continuities

G.I. Joe vs. the Transformers: The Art of War (Vol 3)

The Serpentor in the G.I. Joe vs. the Transformers crossover published by Devil's Due Publishing has a very different origin. In the third G.I Joe vs the Transformers mini-series, he is a US government built biotech android called Serpent O.R. (organic robot), created using processors taken from Megatron and DNA from some of history's greatest war-leaders. Serpent O.R. eventually freed by a Cobra raid. While Cobra Commander plans to use the android to make him all powerful, Serpent O.R. was quickly influenced by the portion of him that was Megatron and he rebelled, defeating the Cobra operatives and the combined G.I Joe/Autobots task force sent to deactivate him. Downloading information on Transformers history from Soundwave, he discovers his connection to Megatron and decided to obtain their greatest source of power he knew of - the Autobot Matrix of Leadership. Seeing himself as Megatron's son and heir, he set out on a quest to gain the Matrix for himself, believing it would grant him the power he needed to rule. Journeying to Cybertron, he used Megatron's memories to convince the Predacons and Seacons to become his first troops.

He manages to capture a group of G.I. Joes and Autobots, killing Bumblebee in the process. Calling all the surviving Decepticons together, Serpent O.R. was at first mocked due to his size but convinced the Decepticons to rally against the Autobots. His attack came during the Autobots' celebration of peace following the Decepticons' defeat. Serpentor then accomplishes what even his "father" Megatron never could, defeating the Autobots and capturing Optimus Prime. It was then that Serpent O.R. revealed his plan to Prime, the only emotion he had ever truly felt was when he had killed Bumblebee and observed the horror, grief, and rage of his companions, even after such a grand victory. Therefore, he intended to use the Autobot Matrix of Leadership to give himself an equivalent to a human soul or a Transformer Spark and feel a full range of emotions. However, at that moment, Serpent O.R was distracted by the news of the Joes' escape, allowing Optimus Prime to break free and smash Serpent O.R. into the ground. Prime was unwilling to actually kill him, though, allowing Serpent O.R.'s forces to beat him nearly to death and steal the Matrix. Exposure to it was not how he expected it - in addition to being reformatted as a Transformer-sized mechanoid and referring to himself as Serpentor Prime, the Matrix made him see the futility of all the fighting. However, before matters could be taken further, Cobra Commander was able to take control of Serpentor's body using a program developed by the scientists who created him. His rampage did not last long, as Hawk was able to open the Matrix, transforming Hawk into a mighty leader and rendering the Commander comatose. Serpent O.R.'s exact fate beyond this is unknown.

Animated series appearance

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero - Sunbow

Serpentor was created largely due to a dissatisfaction among ranking officers of the Cobra Organization regarding Cobra Commander's ineptitude to lead them. A dream inspires Dr. Mindbender to create a new leader. This would later be rectconned in G.I. Joe: The Movie where it was revealed that Cobra-La's ruler, Golobulus, gave Dr. Mindbender the blueprint for creating Serpentor via subconscious means with a psychic motivator. Unfortunately, because G.I. Joe stopped Cobra from obtaining the vital genetic essence of Sun Tzu, Serpentor's personality was fundamentally flawed upon gaining consciousness. The genetic material they failed to capture was replaced by genetic material taken from the captured Sgt. Slaughter which may not have actually been used during the process: Sgt. Slaughter, with Cobra Commander's help, escaped and destroyed the canister of his DNA during the creation process when it was close to finishing. In addition, Cobra Commander subtly tried to interfere with this project to prevent himself from being replaced, but ultimately failed.

Serpentor proved to be much braver than Cobra Commander, but he was also every bit the egomaniac that the Commander had been, if not more so, and his courage often bordered on stubbornness and foolhardy pride. Serpentor was usually portrayed as temperamental and prone to anger when things did not go his way which happened more often than he wanted to admit. For instance, his first major operation was an immediate full force direct assault on the U.S. Capitol at Washington, D.C. over the protests of his subordinates at the absurdity of such an attack. The attack turned out to be a total fiasco from which Serpentor and his immediate subordinates barely escaped with the help of Cobra Commander, who then persuaded the Emperor to keep him around as a scapegoat to hide his weaknesses. In return, Serpentor allowed Cobra Commander to be his right hand man, and second-in-command, though they still openly despised each other. Unlike Cobra Commander, he appeared more likely to inflict physical harm on those who would displease him. Serpentor's strength was so unusually great that not even Sgt. Slaughter could overpower him.

Later in G.I. Joe: The Movie, he would learn his true origins and join Golobulus and Cobra-La in its bid to transform Earth's populace into "mindless beasts" where he seems to share a romance with Pythona. He still views Cobra Commander as incompetent, and watches with pleasure as Golobulus has Nemesis Enforcer expose Cobra Commander to mutating spores, which begins his mutation into a snake. In order to achieve his plans for world domination, they needed to capture the BET Machine. He gains his revenge on Duke for defeating him earlier by stabbing him with a snake javelin. By the end of the movie, Lt. Falcon avenges Duke by confronting Serpentor. Duke did not die in the movie, but was severely wounded. During this battle, Serpentor had the upper hand on Falcon, but Cobra Commander (as a snake) intervened by taking on Serpentor's weapon snake, freeing Falcon so he could continue to battle Serpentor. Serpentor seemingly perished when Falcon causes his Air Chariot to go out of control, due to the latter causing his cape to be sucked into the Chariot's intake fan.

DIC Series

That was, however, not the end of Serpentor. He appears again in the DiC-produced mini-series, G.I. Joe: Operation Dragonfire. He reorganizes Cobra with Destro, Baroness, Scoop, Zarana and Copperhead returning to the team. Now independent of Cobra-La and with Golobulus apparently dead, he plans to use the Dragonfire to rule the world. He is seen just as violent if not more violent than the last time and more powerful that ever. Both he and Destro seek to get the Dragonfire depositories.

He keeps Cobra Commander as his pet snake. Seeking revenge upon Destro for his rejection of her in favor of Zarana and tired of Serpentor's leadership of Cobra (which Serpentor is unaware), The Baroness returns Cobra Commander to semi human form, at which point he immediately plots to overthrow Serpentor. Serpentor is cornered by Cobra Commander's Python Patrol Vipers. Cobra Commander's plan is almost ruined when his Vipers are unable to seize Serpentor, however the G.I.JOE Low-Light disguised as a Night Viper offers to deal with Serpentor for fun. Afterward Serpentor is trapped by a non-poisonous snake, the Commander knew he hadn't much time before Serpentor freed himself. He immediately orders his Python Vipers to strap him to the table. Eventually Cobra Commander uses his new technology to merge him with Gnagahyde's pet iguana instead of a snake, effectively overthrowing Serpentor and regain leadership of Cobra from him. Serpentor is last seen running off into the jungle in his iguana form with Gnagahyde chasing after him. Cobra Commander had told him the change would only be temporary, but Serpentor was not seen again, and is presumably dead.


Some fans expressed disdain when Serpentor was introduced into the G.I. Joe universe. Some felt that he took away some of the realism of G.I. Joe (although the animated series frequently traversed into the realm of fantasy and science fiction) and a sign that it had jumped the shark. It was also criticized as an example of a character forced upon the comic book and cartoon writers, whereby they had to come up with an explanation of how a COBRA emperor would come from nowhere even though a COBRA leader already existed.

In the cartoons, some view Serpentor to be just an extreme version of Cobra Commander and that his performance, though braver, is still a failure, although he made G.I. Joe's life more severe than it used to be. While others viewed Serpentor as superior to Cobra Commander, the leader the Cobra Organization should always have had, given he wasn't the one dimensional cowardly snake that Cobra Commander was.

Serpentor's DNA templates

Here is a list of the known (and possible) genetic templates used in Serpentor's creation:

  • Alexander the Great, the young leader of ancient Macedonia who sought to conquer the known world but died a premature death in Babylon.
  • Amon-Toth, one of the greatest generals in ancient Egypt. Fictional and created for the show. (cartoons only)
  • Attila the Hun, the greatest barbarian leader during the fall of the Roman Empire.
  • Cyrus the Great, Persian military conqueror and creator of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. (comics)
  • Doctor Mindbender used his own mind as a source of knowledge of modern matters and a loyalty to Cobra. (comics only)
  • Erik the Red, a Viking lord who once ruled the seas north of Europe. Generally credited with colonizing Greenland.
  • Erik the Batterer, though similar in description to Erik the Red, he is apparently a different Viking lord. One of his most treasured possessions was his battle-axe, Skullsplitter. Fictional and created for the show. (cartoons only)
  • Genghis Khan, the greatest known leader of the Mongols, who once conquered much of the continent of Asia. He also conquered more of the world than any leader before or since. How his ashes were recovered, just as how his DNA is collected unless there were still bones left, remains to be seen.
  • Grigori Rasputin, a self-proclaimed holy man, popularly blamed for the destruction of the last royal family of Russia. (cartoons)
  • Hannibal, the leader of ancient Carthage, who nearly forced the young Roman Republic to the brink of ruin.
  • Henry V of England, a brilliant general who conquered much of France.
  • Ivan IV of Russia, also known as Ivan the Terrible, a very efficient monarch known for cruelty to his foes. (cartoons)
  • Alexander Hamilton, first secretary of the treasury. (comics only)
  • Julius Caesar, Roman politician, general and the first person to rule Rome as dictator for life. How his ashes still had his DNA remains to be seen unless there were still bones left.
  • Moctezuma II, the last monarch of the Aztec Empire before the arrival of the Spanish, at the end of his reign, the Aztec Empire was already at its peak thanks to him. (cartoons)
  • Napoleon Bonaparte, one of the greatest military leaders in history and Emperor of the French.
  • Philip II of Macedon
  • Solomon, In the file card, it is stated that he has the DNA of King Solomon. King Solomon is portrayed in the Bible as the wisest king in history, though he was the last king of the unified Jewish kingdom.
  • Storm Shadow, Cobra Commander's body guard and trained ninja master. (comics only)
  • Sun Tzu, one of the best-known strategists of China and the author of the book, The Art of War. Note: Dr. Mindbender attempted to collect Sun Tzu's DNA, but was unsuccessful, forcing him to use the much less patient Sgt. Slaughter's DNA as a substitute. When this happened, Serpentor failed to have patience just like Sgt. Slaughter. (cartoons only)
  • King Tashaka, the Indian lord of all serpents. He kept a menagerie of various snakes and reptiles at his palace. A character from Indian legend. (cartoons only)
  • Vlad Ţepeş Dracula, monarch of Wallachia and Romanian national hero who was very cruel with his Ottoman Turk enemies. He is best known as the inspiration for Bram Stoker's Count Dracula.

It should be noted that in reality, the burial sites of most of these historical figures such as Caesar, Alexander, Solomon, Genghis Khan, Hannibal, and Sun-Tzu have never been discovered. Many were actually cremated. Other more recent figures such as Rasputin and Vlad Tepes have never had their remains positively identified making it impossible to obtain DNA that can be confirmed as theirs.

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